September 1, 2006 (Vol. 26, No. 15)
A Twist on the Typical Fee-for-Service Scheme
Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies looking to outsource various stages of the drug discovery process can find a range of services at ChemDiv (www.chemdiv.com), based in San Diego and Moscow. This contract research organization (CRO) with a 15-year proven track record in small molecule chemistry provides partners with access to Discovery outSource™, a drug discovery platform that includes synthetic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, diverse and focused screening libraries, and preclinical development.
ChemDiv adds a twist to the typical CRO fee-for-service scheme. “Our discovery projects are collaborative and help us to build services faster, and they often grow into R&D collaborations with our partners,” says Nikolay Savchuk, Ph.D., president and CEO of ChemDiv in San Diego.
Companies working with ChemDiv can contract on a fee-for-service basis. ChemDiv also conducts risk-sharing and in-licensing agreements for projects with mutual scientific and commercial benefits with universities and biotechnology companies. “Our business model is to incubate discovery projects and turn them into platforms for R&D collaborations with pharma partners,” says Dr. Savchuk.
At the start of a new partnership, ChemDiv experts and their partners develop a project work plan and set agreed-upon milestones. Regular evaluations insure that all project objectives are met. All data generated by ChemDiv’s global research facilities are generated in a format compatible with the partner’s IT infrastructure using top-of-the-line management systems, according to Dr. Savchuk. ChemDiv guarantees that its partners valuable research projects are handled in a confidential and professional manner.
Recent advances in decoding both the human genome and those of pathogenic microbes offer opportunities for discovering new therapeutic agents to treat a variety of diseases. Some of the most promising targets include G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR), kinases, and signaling cascades. ChemDiv has developed a large commercial compound library to speed the discovery of new pharmaceuticals.
“We have one million compounds in our collection,” says Dr. Savchuk, and “it’s a good resource for lead discovery of tough targets.” In addition, ChemDiv operates an in-house discovery program that targets prostate and pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma. Partnering opportunities for ChemDiv programs in oncology include kinase platforms built for the oncology area and developmental pathway modulation.
ChemDiv has established business connections with more than 400 major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and worldclass research institutes worldwide, including Merck, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering, Novo Nordisk, Genentech, and Johns Hopkins and Stanford Universities, among others. In one of the latest collaborations launched in March, ChemDiv and Berlex, a U.S. affiliate of Schering, will work to discover new lead compounds against several GPCR targets associated with several disease areas.
Two years ago, Euroscreen teamed up with ChemDiv to develop drug candidates against chemokine receptors, a specific type of GPCR target associated with inflammation, immune disorders, and cancer. Euroscreen is building a patent portfolio of GPCR targets and novel drug leads to license to biopharmaceutical companies. The patents include GPCR receptors involved in metabolic defects, obesity, and diabetes.
The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases awarded AdipoGenix and ChemDiv an SBIR grant to find small molecules that target human fat tissue as a therapy for obesity and type 2 diabetes. ChemDiv supplies AdipoGenix with specific small molecule libraries and custom chemistry services to support AdipoGenix’ biology platform, which screens for compounds that reduce fat in human cells and identifies the mechanism of action and molecular targets.
Inappropriate activation of the Hedgehog pathway is associated with a variety of tumors, including basal cell carcinoma, medulloblastoma, and pancreatic cancer. In collaboration with researchers at Stanford University, ChemDiv is designing compound libraries for screening the Hedgehog pathway. To identify new druggable targets, ChemDiv is focusing on the discovery of mechanistically distinct antagonists using a NIH-3T3 cell-based assay.
The University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore partnered with ChemDiv to discover treatments for breast cancer. ChemDiv provides access to its diverse screening libraries, medicinal chemistry services, and computational chemistry technologies to improve the chances of finding high-affinity compounds that selectively target breast cancer cells with defined genetic alterations.
The anticancer drugs Gleevec, Iressa, and Tarceva all inhibit protein kinases, yet the development of protein kinase inhibitors for the treatment of cancer is still in its infancy. ProQinase and ChemDiv are searching for new kinase inhibitors by combining ProQinase’s state-of-the-art molecular biology and screening platforms with ChemDiv’s discovery biology platform. Both companies will share development costs and revenues to develop novel kinase inhibitors into anticancer therapies.
ChemDiv sees huge potential in academic collaborations, particularly for validating biological platforms with pharmaceutical partners. “We are developing a unique model of partnerships with academia as a way to commercialize intellectual property,” says Dr. Savchuk. ChemDiv contributes in-kind scientific resources, monetary incentives, and management skills to develop academic discoveries of novel biological targets. ChemDiv coordinates the out-licensing of academic technologies and biological assets to pharmaceutical companies as R&D collaborations.
“There’s a lot of untapped IP in academia,” adds Dr. Savchuk, but “there are few mechanisms to turn IP into lead discoveries to fill the pharma pipeline under the current road map.” Although pharmaceutical companies fund some academic research, university laboratories are unaccustomed to delivering results on a timeline like industry does. ChemDiv’s partner-development teams create value for new lead discoveries made at universities that could lead to partnerships with pharmaceutical companies or the creation of new biotechnology companies.
For the last few years, ChemDiv has posted annual revenue growth of 30-40% and has expanded its services to include in vitro and in vivo biological assays and bioanalytical and other preclinical development services. The company plans to further expand its research emphasis on biological capabilities to offer diversified services in the future.